Every year, thousands of children across the country will take on a familiar chore: mowing the lawn.
Safety is always a priority, and three national medical organizations are warning families that the routine task of lawn mowing can be extremely dangerous to children, the operator, and those nearby if proper safety precautions aren’t taken.
Many lawn mower-related injuries require a team of physicians from various specialties to properly repair them. Often, patients must endure painful reconstructive operations for months — sometimes years — to restore form and function. Some of these procedures can be as complex as moving the big toe to the hand to simulate a thumb.
According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), in 2013, more than 301,000 people were treated for lawn mower-related injuries in a clinic or emergency department, or were admitted to the hospital. More than 10,500 of the people hurt were children under age 18, and approximately one-third of lawn mower-related injuries were serious enough to be treated in an emergency department.
Making mowing the lawn safer
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS), American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), and the American Society for Reconstructive Microsurgery (ASRM) are joining forces to educate adults and children about the importance of lawn mower safety.
“Behind the often-pleasant summer task of mowing the yard lurks a serious threat to the health of children, youth and adults. We are hopeful that disseminating information about lawn mower safety may eliminate the thousands of mutilating — and at times fatal — injuries resulting from the use of both riding and push- or walk-behind lawn mowers,” said ASRM President Allen T Bishop, MD. “If we are to avoid a life-changing event to a family member, appropriate prevention is vital.”
“Look around any neighborhood with lawns this summer, and unfortunately, you will see children operating or playing around lawn mowers in unsafe ways. For many children and teens, a happy summer day will turn painful,” said AAP President James M Perrin. “It is worth it for parents and kids to take a few minutes to learn and follow a few safety tips before taking on this chore.”
12 lawn mower injury prevention tips
Keep lawn mowers in good working order. When using a lawn mower for the first time in a season, have it serviced to ensure that it is working correctly.
Prevent injuries from flying objects, such as stones or toys, by picking up objects from the lawn before mowing begins.
Wear protective gloves, closed-toe, sturdy shoes and long pants when using a lawn mower. Never mow barefoot or while wearing sandals or flip flops.
Have anyone who uses a mower or is in the vicinity wear polycarbonate protective eyewear at all times.
Only use a mower with a control that stops the mower blade from moving if the handle is let go.
Use a stick or broom handle (not your hands or feet) to remove debris in lawn mowers.
Do not leave a lawn mower unattended when it is running. If you must walk away from the machine, shut off the engine.
When using lawn mowers, be sure that children are not playing in the area being mowed. Never carry a child on your lap when utilizing a ride-around lawn mower or tractor.
Children should be at least 12 years of age before operating a push lawn mower, and age 16 to operate a driving lawn mower.
Drive up and down slopes, not across, to prevent mower rollover.
Do not pull the mower backward or mow in reverse unless absolutely necessary, and carefully look for other people (particularly children) behind you when you mow in reverse.
Always turn off the mower and wait for the blades to stop completely before removing the grass catcher, unclogging the discharge chute, inspecting or repairing lawn mower equipment, or crossing gravel paths, roads, or other areas.
“Lawn mower safety should never take a back seat,” said AAOS President Frederick M Azar, MD. “No matter how small the task, or how often it’s performed, families should always proceed with caution — and most importantly, seek and share safety tips to help reduce their risk for injury.” To read more tips on lawn mower safety, visit OrthoInfo.org.